Gender differences in health reflect lifelong inequalities
NCDs are the leading cause of poor health in the EU, with varying impacts on women and men. Exposure and vulnerability to NCDs is shaped by biological factors, as well as gender roles and norms (WHO, 2019g). In particular, gender-specific mental health disorders also have different impacts on health status. Poor mental health also contributes to the overall burden of NCDs, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancer (Pikhart and Pikhartova, 2015; Stein et al., 2019).
This section covers specific aspects of the health status of the EU population from a gender perspective, namely self-reported health, health limitations, the main causes of premature death, mental well-being and the prevalence of mental disorders. It also explores how social determinants and gender norms affect health.
Men are more likely to perceive their health as good
Women are more likely to have health limitations over their lifetime
The main causes of premature mortality are gendered
Women report poorer mental well-being than men
Gender differences in mental disorders begin early in life
Traditional norms of masculinity
Body image drives poor mental health, especially in youth
 Mental health is considered an important factor in NCDs, with a meta-analysis by WHO showing that psychosocial factors affect NCDs in Europe and, particularly, that ‘Psychosocial distress may also have a direct effect on NCDs such as coronary heart disease independent of these other factors’ (Pikhart and Pikhartova, 2015).